- Not to be confused with the Mexican television network, "Las Estrellas".
|Type||Broadcast television network|
(via OTA digital television in many markets; national feed available on select cable systems elsewhere)
January 27, 2009 |
by Lenard Liberman
(President/CEO/Executive Vice President, Liberman Broadcasting)
(COO, Liberman Broadcasting)
(Vice President of News, Estrella TV)
|September 14, 2009|
480i (SDTV; widescreen)
|Affiliates||List of affiliates|
Estrella TV (Spanish pronunciation: [esˈtɾeʎa tβ]; stylized on-air as estrellaTV; translated in English as Star TV) is an American Spanish-language broadcast television network that is owned by Liberman Broadcasting. The network primarily features programs, the vast majority of which are produced by the network itself, aimed at Hispanic and Latino American audiences – featuring a mix of variety and sketch comedy series, music programming, reality television series, scripted anthology drama series, news programming, sports, and imported Mexican-produced feature films.
Estrella TV's programming, production and advertising operations are headquartered in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank, California. The network's operations are overseen by Lenard Liberman, president, CEO and executive vice president of Liberman Broadcasting. The network is available in many media markets via low-power and some full-power over-the-air broadcast television stations (many of which carry Estrella TV on their digital subchannels), and on select cable television providers through either a local broadcast affiliate or the network's default national feed.
Estrella TV's beginnings trace back to 1998, when Liberman Broadcasting – owner of Spanish language radio stations in several media markets with large Spanish language populations, including four radio stations in the third largest U.S. market – made its entry into television broadcasting when its founders, Mexican-born media executive Jose Liberman and his son Lenard, purchased KRCA (channel 62) in Los Angeles, California, a television station affiliated with the Shop at Home Network at the time.
On August 31, 1998, Liberman converted KRCA into an independent station with a dual-ethnic programming format. The station ran a block of Spanish language programs during its daytime schedule – running from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays – originally consisting largely of dubbed versions of drama series from the Universal Television library (such as Airwolf and Emergency!) and Mexican-produced feature films); the remainder of KRCA's schedule consisted of Asian-imported programming from Japan and various South Asian countries. By 2002, KRCA dropped its Asian-imported programming and became a Spanish language outlet full-time. Liberman acquired two additional stations over the next six years; in 2001, the company bought English independent KZJL (channel 61) in Houston, Texas. Then in 2004, it purchased KMPX (channel 29) in Dallas–Fort Worth, which then served as the original flagship owned-and-operated station of religious broadcaster Daystar (which subsequently purchased PBS station KDTN to replace KMPX as its flagship); Liberman also purchased low-power station KSDX-LP (channel 29) in San Diego, California that same year.
In 1999, Liberman formed a production division within its LBI Media unit to produce original programming content that would be distributed to the stations, focusing on a mix of variety series, sketch comedy, scripted drama and music programs, talk shows and game shows. One of its earliest programs, the reality game show Gana la Verde ("Win the Green"), caused controversy after several immigrant advocacy groups (including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Central American Resource Center, the Latina Lawyers Bar Association and the Mexican American Bar Association) and California State Reps. Xavier Becerra, Hilda Solis and Linda Sánchez complained that the format – which debuted in July 2004, and featured illegal immigrants competing in extreme Fear Factor-style competitions for the opportunity to win one year of legal assistance from an immigration attorney to help them obtain a green card – put its participants in danger of deportation by immigration authorities aware of the show. Programming production ramped up in 2004 with series that included:
- Estudio 2 ("Studio 2"), a variety series conducted from a multi-stage studio that mainly featured performances from Mexican Regional and some contemporary Latin music artists, recurring comedic sketches (primarily featuring established Mexican comic actors such as Luis de Alba and Liliana "La Chupitos" Ariaga) and the karaoke-style elimination game "Aficiandos";
- José Luis sin Censura ("José Luis Uncensored"), a conflict talk show hosted by Jose Luis Gonzalez;
- Fabrica de la Risa ("Laugh Factory"), featuring various self-contained comedic sketches performed primarily by a troupe of five actors;
- Secretos ("Secrets"), a Cheaters-style scripted drama focusing on a team of private investigators tasked with solving mysteries and crimes, and uncovering deceptions by family members and significant others;
- !A Que no Puedes¡ ("I Bet You Can't!"), a game show featuring teams of contestants (originally consisting of family members, before shifting towards featuring actors, musicians and models) conducting physical challenges and dares to bank monetary prizes;
- and El Show de Don Cheto ("The Don Cheto Show"), a music and game-based variety series emceed by comedian/host Juan Razo as his character Don Cheto.
Recognizing that the independents could not compete in that arena with the two dominant national Spanish language networks, Univision and Telemundo, Liberman opted not to produce or acquire telenovelas for the stations, opting instead to produce lower-cost programming to counterprogram the longer-established networks. Although much smaller in size than the parents of Univision and Telemundo, Liberman was more than willing to open its wallets to sign talent from popular Latin American countries to star in its programs, in addition to using performers from the U.S.
By 2006, the company had adopted a consistent branding for its three television stations under the brand "Estrella TV" (or "Star TV"). Liberman expanded the Estrella TV format to other markets where it acquired television stations, featuring much of the same programs as those aired by the Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston outlets (some of which aired in different timeslots than they did on KRCA, KMPX and KZJL). On May 30, 2007, Liberman Broadcasting purchased KPNZ (channel 24) in Salt Lake City, Utah from Utah Communications, LLC for $10 million (although it would continue to operate as an English language independent station from after the purchase was finalized that November until February 2008); then on August 18, 2008, the company purchased low-power station KVPA-LP (channel 42) in Phoenix, Arizona from Latin America Broadcasting, Inc. for $1.25 million.
As Liberman expanded its programming to other O&Os, its mix of programming shifted to appeal towards various Hispanic and Latino audiences (whereas Liberman originally programmed KRCA to cater to Los Angeles' predominately Mexican audience, when it first became a part-time Spanish station) and helped the pseudo-network beat its major competitors. In the Los Angeles market, the programs helped KRCA become a strong ratings competitor, even beating Telemundo owned-and-operated station KVEA for second place (ranking behind long-dominant Univision O&O KMEX-TV) among the market's Spanish language stations during the November 2008 sweeps period, at which time KMPX and KZJL also beat the respective Telemundo outlets (KXTX-TV and KTMD) for second in all key adult demographics among the Spanish stations in the Houston and Dallas markets. In all five markets, the Estrella TV-branded stations ranked in second place among Hispanic adults in the 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 demographic, beating Telemundo's ratings by as much as 100% and Telefutura's by as much as 64% during the weekday early fringe and prime time (3:00 to 11:00 p.m.) periods.
On January 27, 2009, at the National Association of Television Program Executives Convention in Las Vegas, Liberman Broadcasting announced that it would turn the Estrella TV concept into a full-fledged national network that would launch at a then-yet-determined date later that year, which would be targeted at adults between the ages of 18 and 49 years old. Liberman had explored the possibility of developing a national network in 2007, when it raised $200 million in capital to acquire additional television stations and expand programming production. LBI Media's decision to launch the network came despite experiencing revenue declines that affected other broadcasting companies during the Great Recession (with LBI's corporate revenues having declined by 16.4%, to $28.4 million, and its operating income down by 5.6%, at $19.2 million, during the second quarter of 2009 over the previous fiscal quarter).
To counterprogram networks that already established a foothold with the Hispanic and Latino demographic (such as Univision, Telemundo, Telefutura and Azteca América), Liberman chose to maintain the existing format used by the company's independent stations and have Estrella TV rely on the company's extensive library of original programming that originated on the six outlets (which Liberman had also syndicated to broadcasters in Puerto Rico and Latin American countries such as Panama, Honduras and El Salvador) as well as newer content for its inaugural schedule – including Estudio 2; Secretos; !A Que no Puedes¡; José Luis sin Censura; Los Chuperamigos, a sketch comedy series led by Lilliana Arriaga and a cast of popular Mexican comedic actors including Luis De Alba, Alejandro Suarez, Maribel "La Pelangocha" Fernandez and Carlos Bonavides; El Show de Lagrimita y Costel ("The Lagrimita and Costel Show"), a variety series hosted by father and son comedians Costel and Guillermo Cienfuegos in clown attire; and two daily news programs (the twice-daily weekday evening national newscast, Noticias Estrella TV ("Estrella TV News") and Alarma TV ("Alarm TV"), a half-hour prime time newsmagazine focusing on caught-on-tape footage). The initial original programming-focused slate made up the majority of its schedule, running for a total of 56 hours per week from early-afternoon through prime time on Monday through Saturdays (its Sunday schedule would rely mainly on imported feature films).
Liberman had set July 1 as the date for Estrella TV's projected national launch by March 2009, however the company ultimately delayed the rollout by 3½ months; the national Estrella TV network formally commenced programming on September 14, 2009. On March 8, 2010, Nielsen began to include Estrella TV in the ratings provider's People Meter sample reports, alongside the other major Spanish language broadcast networks; the network was initially not listed in the daily "Television Index" reports that incorporate the other networks.
Over time, Estrella TV made major inroads in approaching viewership parity with Univision, Telemundo and Telefutura. By November 2012, Estrella TV ranked in fourth place in total viewers among all Hispanic broadcast networks, with an average of around 200,000 viewers. It was the only Spanish language network to experience an increase in viewership year-over-year during October 2013, the network placed third during prime time in total viewership among Hispanic audiences and in the demographic of Hispanic adults between the ages of 25 and 54, with the newsmagazine Alarma TV and late-evening national newscast Noticiero Enrique Gratas ranking within the 20 highest-rated Spanish-language television programs. On January 7, 2014, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was appointed by Liberman Broadcasting to serve as a senior advisor for the network, helping provide input in its programming, community and advertiser relations. In hiring Villaraigosa, Liberman CEO Lenard Liberman cited the company's need to "increase our sensitivity and understanding of the needs of the Hispanic community," with Villaraigosa citing in part that he was drawn to the "human capital" behind the network.
On May 15, 2015, Liberman Broadcasting announced that Estrella TV would launch a multichannel production firm, Fenómeno Studios, which would develop programming content targeted at millennials between the ages and 18 and 34. The studio, which launched that June, would produce specialized genre-based content (including music, comedy, gaming, lifestyle, do-it-yourself, beauty and sports content) from a 23,000-square-foot (0.53-acre) facility near Liberman's corporate headquarters and production studios in Burbank, featuring separate production soundstages, edit bays and offices, with the intent to use existing performers from Estrella TV shows with a broad presence on social media (such as singer Luis Coronel, who also serves as a judge on the talent competition series Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento, and Juan "Don Cheto" Razo) and attract existing YouTube talent that would have their content distributed on the Fenómeno online network – with the possibility of some newer talent curated on the Fenómeno networks being considered for program development crossover to the linear Estrella TV network.
As of 2015, Estrella TV operates on a 113½-hour network programming schedule. Its base programming feed provides various types of general entertainment programming Monday through Fridays from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time; the network also carries a half-hour of children's programming – which comply with core programming guidelines defined by the Federal Communications Commission's Children's Television Act – on Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, consisting of dubbed versions of wildlife and nature programs originally produced in English that comply with educational programming. All remaining time periods are filled with infomercials that were either originally produced or dubbed into Spanish, a block that had previously made up half the network's broadcast day at its debut, but now is limited to the industry standard of midnight ET-6 a.m. ET.
The majority of Estrella TV's programming schedule relies on the extensive library of originally-produced television programs that are produced the production division of and owned by network parent company LBI Media, incorporating both first-run and archived programs, which comprised a total of more than 5,000 hours of entertainment content at the network's launch. The network's series programming primarily covers formats common in Spanish language television broadcasters in the U.S. and other countries, consisting of reality, talk and variety programming as well as music, drama and sketch comedy programs, with some programs having originally aired in Los Angeles on KRCA and syndicated to Liberman's Spanish language independent stations prior to the formation of the network.
Much of Estrella TV's programming consists of variety series (such as Estudio 2, El Show de Don Cheto and Noches Con Platanito ("Tonight with Platanito"), a prime time talk-variety show hosted by Sergio Verduzco as his clown character Platanito that is modeled after late-night talk formats), comedy series (such as Los Chuperamigos and Fábrica de la Risa), reality programs (such as Rica Famosa Latina ("Rich, Famous, Latina"), a series created by Joyce Giraud, and modeled after the Real Housewives franchise that Giraud was briefly part of, following the lives of a group of famed Latina entertainers), along with a limited amount of scripted programs (such as Secretos and Historias Delirantes ("Disturbing Stories"), an anthology series featuring supernaturally themed storylines).
As of 2015, the network's longest-running first-run entertainment program is Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento ("I Have Talent, Lots of Talent"), a reality talent competition series similar in format to the Got Talent franchise which debuted on October 5, 2009. Among its early program offerings was Estrellitas Del Sabado, a two-hour family variety series featuring talent from children ages 12 and under and hosted by Itati Cantoral, which was designed to compete with Univision's then-Saturday night stalwart Sabado Gigante; the program was cancelled in 2012, after two seasons. The Saturday evening time period has been partly filled since then by Sabados en Concierto ("Saturdays in Concert"), a weekly series of concert performances from various traditional and contemporary Latin music artists that is an offshoot of a series of Friday night concert specials that began airing in October 2010. The network debuted its first original miniseries on November 15, 2013, Jenni – La Vida de Una Diva ("Jenni - The Life of a Diva"), a ten-episode series chronicling the life and career of singer Jenni Rivera (who died in a plane crash near Monterrey, Mexico, en route from a concert performance in December 2012), though it was an unofficial unendorsed miniseries due to Rivera's long-time association with mun2 and Telemundo.
At its launch, Liberman Broadcasting president/CEO Lenard Liberman cited that it would not carry telenovelas as part of its schedule (either produced by the company or acquired from other distributors), citing the genre's skewing towards an older and more female audience; however, the network would eventually reverse course in 2015, when it began to incorporate acquired telenovelas (such as the Venevision/Univision co-production El Talismán ("The Talisman")) as part of its schedule, however these programs currently only occupy an hour of the network's weekday daytime schedule As of October 2015. The network also regularly airs imported Spanish-language feature films originally produced in Mexico and South American countries on weekday mid-mornings and during the afternoon seven days a week; the film roster does not concentrate on films from any specific era, meaning any film from the black-and-white era to contemporary times, and films made for either domestic theatrical or home video/DVD release can be featured.
Estrella TV operates a news division, Noticiero Estrella TV, which originates from the network's Burbank headquarters, and produces national news programming aimed towards the Hispanic market in the United States and Latin America. The division launched with the network on September 14, 2009, with the premiere of a flagship half-hour news program, also titled Noticiero Estrella TV, which has aired at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on Monday through Friday evenings since its debut. The program was also joined by two daily newsmagazine programs, the hour-long Estrellas Hoy ("Stars Today") and the half-hour En Vivo ("Live"), entertainment-based shows focusing on popular Latino celebrities.
On April 13, 2010, Liberman Broadcasting announced that it had reached a deal with veteran journalist Enrique Gratas to join Estrella TV as anchor of a prime time newscast that would serve as the companion to the early-evening broadcast, Noticiero con Enrique Gratas ("News with Enrique Gratas"), which debuted six days later on April 19. Differing somewhat in tone compared to the early evening edition, the program – which adopted its current title, Cierre de Edición ("Final Edition") in 2013, and airs at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time – provides more in-depth analysis of news stories affecting the U.S. Hispanic community, similar to the late-night newscast that Gratas formerly anchored for Univision from 1999 until he was laid off by that network in 2009, Noticiero Univision: Última Hora. Gratas expanded his duties in 2011, with a short-lived weekly investigative newsmagazine El Momento con Enrique Gratas (A Moment with Enrique Gratas). Gratas took a sabbatical from Cierre de Edición in August 2015 due to ongoing health issues, but remained the main anchor of the program until his death from a reported diagnosis of metastatic cancer at age 71 on October 8, 2015. Pedro Ferriz Híjar (who joined the network from Mexican cable news channel Efekto TV, where he anchored a prime time newscast) was named anchor of Cierre de Edición and En La Lucha on February 2, 2016, and debuted later that month.
In 2013, Estrella TV hired another veteran of Univision's news division, Myrka Dellanos, to serve as main anchor of its early evening newscast Noticiero Estrella TV, and host a series of interview specials for the network, En Exclusiva con Myrka Dellanos ("Exclusive with Myrka Dellanos"). Dellanos left the network on April 24, 2015, and was subsequently replaced on Noticiero Estrella TV by Adriana Ruggiero, a former evening anchor at Los Angeles flagship station KRCA.
At the network's 2014 upfront presentation in New York on May 12, Liberman Broadcasting CEO Lenard Liberman announced that Estrella TV would launch Buenos Dias Familia ("Good Morning, Family"), a three-hour morning news and lifestyle program described as "an original alternative" to morning programs aired on its competitors (including Univision's Despierta América and Telemundo's Un Nuevo Día), intended for a debut that fall; plans to debut the program were later cancelled, with feature films, educational programming and a rebroadcast of Cierre de Edición continuing to air the program's intended time period.
On June 28, 2015, in the runup to the 2016 Presidential election, the network debuted En La Lucha ("In the Ring"), a half-hour Sunday midday political and current affairs program featuring panel discussions on various political and socioeconomic topics of impact to the Latino community in the United States. The program was originally hosted by Hernán Molina – who in addition to such roles at Univision, CNN en Español and NTN24, previously served as a political analyst for Los Angeles flagship station KRCA – and also served as the program's co-managing editor until his termination by Liberman in December 2015. Subsequently on July 6, the network replaced the cancelled Estrellas Hoy with iTestigo ("iWitness"), an hour-long newsmagazine focusing on user-generated citizen journalism content of news events and social issues from around the world.
On January 29, 2013, Estrella TV acquired its first broadcast television rights to a televised sporting event, when Liberman Broadcasting announced that it had signed an agreement with Alianza F.C. to obtain the exclusive U.S. Spanish broadcast rights to telecast Salvadoran Primera División soccer matches involving the El Salvador-based football club. Under the deal, which began with its first game broadcast six days later on February 3, the network would broadcast Alianza F.C.'s Sunday afternoon matches (although it occasionally airs prime time matches, mainly on Friday evenings), and produce pre-game and post-game analysis programs bookending the telecasts. In May 2015, the network acquired the U.S. broadcast rights to the Liga MX-affiliated Copa Socio MX exhibition tournament, a six-game tournament involving teams within the league that is played in major U.S. venues.
On July 27, 2015, the network expanded its sports coverage when it reached a three-year programming agreement with Golden Boy Promotions, as the Oscar De La Hoya-founded boxing promotion's exclusive deal with Fox Sports Media Group (in which its fights were broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes) expired due to Premier Boxing Champions's efforts which had Fox Sports sign with that circuit. Under the deal, Estrella TV obtained the rights to broadcast two live evening fight cards two weeks per month under the banner "Boxeo Estelar", as well as rights to the Friday night boxing showcase series LA Fight Club – the latter of which aired on the network as its first fight telecast on September 4, 2015.
Since the network's inception, Estrella TV has broadcast Los Premios de la Radio ("Radio Awards"), an annual awards ceremony held each November, honoring Mexican Regional music performers from classic and contemporary genres and involving Liebermann's radio stations. The network also holds the broadcast rights to Premios El Don, an award show held in January, awarding the contributions of Latinos in the American film industry.
As of October 2015, Estrella TV has seven owned-and-operated stations, and current and pending affiliation agreements with 45 additional television stations encompassing 49 states and the District of Columbia (including stations in 40 of the 50 largest Nielsen markets); counting only its broadcast stations, the network has an estimated national reach of 39.37% of all households in the United States (or 123,009,970 Americans with at least one television set).
National advertising sales for the network are handled by the Spanish Media Rep Team (SMRT), an LBI Media-owned sales organization that also sells spot advertising and handles sales representation for national accounts for Estrella TV owned-and-operated and affiliated stations; SMRT and local affiliates share the responsibility of selling advertising inventory, with affiliate stations retaining 40% of the commercial inventory not sold by Liberman. Stations are allowed the option to carry local programming – including newscasts, local public affairs programs, local brokered programming and political specials – in place of regular programming or infomercials aired within the base Estrella TV schedule.
After it announced the expansion of the Estrella TV concept into a national network, Liberman Broadcasting initially planned to launch the national Estrella TV network on all six of its existing independent stations, with company executives also immediately seeking agreements with propsective stations owned by other broadcasting companies to serve as charter affiliates of Estrella TV. Although it focused on affiliating with full-power stations (particularly digital subchannels of those already affiliated with other networks), the network ultimately obtained primary channel affiliations in several markets where Liberman did not own a station, mainly via agreements with low-power stations. Liberman estimated that Estrella TV would have an initial market reach covering about 70% of all Hispanic-inhabited U.S. households at its launch.
On February 2, 2009, eight days after the network's national launch was first announced, Liberman entered into an affiliation agreement with Communications Corporation of America, which launched the network in five of the company's Texas stations; the deal originally encompassed subchannel affiliations for four stations – KTSM-TV in El Paso, KVEO in Brownsville, KWKT-TV in Waco (as well as its Bryan satellite KYLE-TV) and KETK-TV in Tyler – but later added KPEJ-TV in Odessa as another subchannel-only affiliate through a separate agreement on April 27, 2010.
By the network's launch date in September, Estrella TV had expanded its footprint of charter outlets, signing affiliation agreements with Tribune Broadcasting (for WPIX in New York City); Sinclair Broadcast Group (initially for KVMY in Las Vegas); Sunbeam Television (for WSVN in Miami); Titan Broadcast Management (for KTNC in San Francisco and KFRE-TV in Sanger-Fresno); Belo (for KENS in San Antonio); and Hearst Television (for KOAT in Albuquerque and WPBF in West Palm Beach), helping to give the network affiliates in 68% of all Hispanic television households and nine of the ten largest Hispanic media markets in the U.S. Estrella TV debuted with 17 affiliated stations, in addition to the seven Liberman-owned charter stations, reaching near its national coverage goal with a Hispanic market reach of 68% and affiliates in nine of the ten largest Hispanic U.S. markets (including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Brownsville).
In addition, Liberman also purchased additional stations to serve as O&Os of the network, purchasing WASA-LP in Port Jervis, New York from Venture Technologies Group, LLC for $6 million on April 6, 2009 (WPIX relayed its programming on its 11.2 subchannel); KWHD (now KETD) in Denver from LeSEA Broadcasting for $6.5 million on January 28, 2010 (it joined the network on June 1, 2010); and W40BY (now WESV-LD) in Chicago from the Trinity Broadcasting Network (which operated it as a translator of WWTO-TV in LaSalle) on February 22, 2010 (it joined the network on December 7).
Estrella TV is natively transmitted in the 16:9 aspect ratio, launching high definition operations in mid-2016 in the 720p format, though for the most part this is limited to a few over-the-air stations and cable and satellite providers; most stations carry Estrella TV on a digital subchannel solely in 480i standard definition and scale the signal down for that format. Although most series aired on the network produced before 2012 and "television" cuts of most films released before 2005 were originally formatted in 4:3, the network presents these programs in anamorphic widescreen by default; however, the network airs most commercials in their original picture format whenever possible.
Although the network prefers traditional over-the-air distribution with supplementary carriage on cable and satellite providers, Estrella TV's programming is available in other areas of the United States through a national cable network feed that is distributed directly to select cable, direct-broadcast satellite and IPTV providers (such as Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Charter and Verizon FiOS) – particularly on dedicated Spanish language programming tiers which incorporate other networks that operate direct-to-pay-television feeds (such as UniMás and Azteca) – as an alternative method of distribution in markets without either the availability or the demand for a local owned-and-operated or affiliate station of the network due to its smaller Hispanic population density.
Although most of Estrella TV's local affiliates carry the entire schedule, some pre-empt certain programs within the network's lineup in order to air newscasts or public affairs programs (such as with Los Angeles flagship station KRCA and KXAP-LD in Tulsa, Oklahoma); some also pre-empt paid programs within the network's overnight and early-morning infomercial block (such as with KOCY-LD in Oklahoma City) with other locally produced or brokered programming.
Indecency complaints concerning José Luis Sin Censura
On February 28, 2011, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a 200-page joint indecency complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against Liberman Broadcasting and Estrella TV's Los Angeles flagship station KRCA, in response to content featured on the conflict talk show José Luis Sin Censura, due to repeated instances of verbal and physical abuse against LGBT and female guests.
The two organizations also provided transcripts, video clips and still photographs allegedly sourced from the program (in more than 20 different episodes that aired between June 18 and December 7, 2010) to help illustrate the allegations described in the complaint, which featured pixellated nudity, various censored and uncensored profanity, anti-gay slurs and violent outbursts from angry audience members. GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios said in a statement regarding the offending content: "For years[,] Liberman has ignored concerns from viewers as well as revenue loss from advertisers pulling spots. This material is some of the most violent and offensive on television today and the FCC should hold the broadcaster responsible for airing material which is putting gay and lesbian people in harm's way." GLAAD stated that representatives for the LGBT advocacy organization had met with Liberman executives in 2005, about excising the profanity, slurs and violent acts, but did not have their request granted, and acknowledged that several advertisers pulled advertising from the program following the previous campaign to tone down the content. Following the FCC filing, GLAAD subsequently partnerd with the Women's Media Center to launch an online campaign to urge supporters of the complaint to e-mail the Commission in support of or to file their own individual complaints. In referencing to the extremity of the content, NHMC president Alex Nogales referred in an announcement of the complaint, "José Luis makes Jerry Springer look like Mr. Rogers". More than 30 organizations also responded in the demand for Liberman to take action in regards of the program. According to GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios, "This show serves no role except to fuel a climate of intolerance and violence against our community. The FCC has an obligation to stand up against this offensive program, which has no place on our airwaves."
The groups subsequently launched a boycott against companies that maintained advertising sponsorships for José Luis Sin Censura, and created a petition on Change.org urging Liberman to take action regarding the show and its content. In response to the controversy, AT&T and Time Warner Cable withdrew their advertising from the program. In addition, Miami affiliate WSVN opted to pre-empt José Luis Sin Censura from its Estrella TV feed on digital channel 7.2, while KCTU-LD in Wichita, Kansas disaffiliated the network from one of its subchannels in late 2010, with the station's general manager Ron Nutt citing the network's programming in general "was so objectionable that, at one point or another, half of its viewership had called us with a complaint. They are going for sensationalism. If an English-language network put out this content, they would be asking for trouble." On August 8, 2012, Estrella TV agreed to officially cancel José Luis Sin Censura, immediately pulling the show from its schedule.
On November 15, 2013, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau filed an indecency enforcement action against Liberman Broadcasting, in which the company voluntarily agreed to pay $110,000 to settle the indecency complaints filed by GLAAD, the NHMC and others as part of a consent decree.
Carriage dispute with Comcast
In February 2015, during negotiations to renew its carriage agreement for Estrella TV's owned-and-operated stations in Denver (KETD), Houston (KZJL) and Salt Lake City (KPNZ), Liberman Broadcasting entered into a carriage dispute with Comcast over carriage fees and expanded distribution to all markets served by the provider's Xfinity service in 13 other markets. Chief executive officer Lenard Liberman cited that it was seeking to switch from must carry status for the network's carriage to a retransmission consent compensation model; he also cited concerns that Comcast's since-aborted merger with Time Warner Cable would result in the provider exerting too much leverage in programming deals, resulting in it favoring networks the company owns (such as Telemundo) over minority-owned networks (an issue cited in a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit filed by Entertainment Studios and the National Association of African-American Owned Media that month over its alleged favoring of The Africa Channel, a minority-owned founded by former Comcast/NBCUniversal executive Paula Madison, over other black-owned networks). Estrella TV launched an on-air and social media campaign on February 7, asking viewers to urge Comcast to continue carrying the network; however, representatives for Comcast countered that it expanded distribution of 60 independently operated Hispanic-focused networks (such as Galavisión, HITN and Azteca) across its systems (as part of an agreement resulting from its 2011 merger with Telemundo parent NBCUniversal), and while it was negotiating in good faith with Liberman, it did not want to raise subscriber rates to carry a network with "limited [viewer] appeal".
In response, on February 11, California Rep. Tony Cárdenas circulated a letter to other U.S. House members, asking them to write to the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that independent programmers would not be harmed should the Comcast-TWC merger receive federal approval. KETD, KZJL and KPNZ were all removed from Comcast's systems in the respective markets upon the agreement's expiration at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time on February 20, however, its stations in the 13 other markets where Comcast serves as a major cable provider (including New York City, Chicago, Miami and Fresno) were unaffected due to separate carriage agreements.
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